Decibel Danger

Anybody compared results between free iPhone decibel apps and their actual devices?


My approach was a little bit different. I used my cheap Bluetooth Beats Pill with a cranked up (and very distorted) volume. In short:

  • Start approximating the decibel meter closer to the source (speakers);
  • Stop moving closer when target SPL is reached (e.g.: 85dB);
  • Now move your ears to the same place of the microphone in the meter;
  • Assess in a few seconds the listening level.

One can get an easy idea with the above. I couldn’t bear to hear at 100dB in the meter display, for instance. So I felt somewhat relieved because what I hear with headphones is much much lower.

I would use a safety factor of 10dB, which includes measuring error plus and amount of energy which is not being captured by the decibel meter (mainly the lower frequencies).

Therefore, if my desired SPL threshold is 85, then I would aim at a 75dB threshold in the meter. And then the fun may be over as well. :pensive:

If there is one to blame, blame the meter. :triumph:


I used a few of those SPL meter apps, not sure how accurate they are, but they were showing around 85-90dB at my desired listening level, way too loud, although it sounds SO good, but it’s definitely damaging long-term. I’ve made a concerted effort to get it under 80 but then I find it definitely doesn’t sound as good anymore… Such a dilemma but hearing health is ultimately much more important than short term enjoyment.


I struggle with that too, but even below 80, good experiences can be had.


I agree 100%. Although I find listening with speakers at quiet volumes to be more satisfying than headphones for some reason…


From your post in the other thread:

This is what I like the most about SRH1540. I’m not a headbanger myself but these cans have a scooped mids presentation with a lot of warm, so you can still do some clinical listening at low volumes – not that most of heavy metal has clinical features anyway. :smile:

I’ll give it a go in some of your list. Maybe I find something to my taste.


1 Like

Here’s a quick ‘n’ dirty methodology I use for leveling the volume of my headphones:

  • 70% of Windows volume – always controlled by keyboard;
  • Launch a white noise WAV file I have and adjust the gain/volume knobs in my amps until 85 dBA is achieved.

You could use a decibel meter app for the above. After all, you just need a reference. Taking one example from your previous post:

At 2’, close to the solo part, my Windows volume was at 40% with the SRH1540. Higher than that, it not only gets uncomfortable but the Shure itself starts to distort to the point there’s a spaghetti of frequencies. Not sure if this is the song, my DAC, the Shure itself, or a combination of all three. The meter was spiking 83 dB for the micro dynamics.

Comfortable listening level was 30% for that particular song. But remember, this was to my system. Everyone’s reference is different. Same deal with HD600 (more mid forward / neutral). 30% was OK to me.

That was a very aggressive song by the way, melody wise. It’s heavy metal, right? :smile: :metal: :metal: :metal:

1 Like

Very happy to find this thread! I recently acquired a Feliks Euforia AE and seem to have developed a bit of Tinnitus after the first week of listening. I have a meter on the way and have reviewed the proper way to measure based on this thread. I just want to confirm one thing: @Torq and @TylersEclectic I saw the guidance to put the meter in one earcup where there ear canal would be but I want to confirm if it’s necessary to seal off the rest of the cup opening as it would be on your head? Or is just putting the meter there enough? I saw some had done some with cardboard or other methods? Would love come clarification.

1 Like

For a rough estimate just put it in the cup … for a more accurate but still not perfect, try and seal the cup… I’m sure there are better methods, but for a quick and dirty these two work well enough…


I use a decibel meter too and discovered the Apple Watch has a pretty cool feature warning you of loud environments as well when listening to my 2.1 setup.


I use this. Cut out a circle large enough that covers all my headphones ear pads to seal them. Then cut a small circle with some gorilla tape on the inside. The gorilla tape adds some grip to the metal on the reader. The circle can be taken off and put away with the reader when you’re done. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

BAFX Products - Decibel Meter/Sound Pressure Level Reader (SPL) / 30-130dBA Range - 1 Year Warranty (Standard)


I have that same model!


Affordable and gets the job done. I check occasionally to see where I’m at with my listing levels and stay around 75-77 average. Occasionally it’ll peak 85ish or less. Classic rock can get me occasionally lol.


I have this one too. For bass heads, I would recommend the db(C) weighting though…

There’s a lot of low-spectrum energy that this specific model – db(A) only – is not accounting.



What’s the requirement for calibration with these things out of the box?

I looked in to getting one a while ago but that seemed to be a stumbling block. I guess as long as it’s within a few dB you can compensate to keep your listening on the safe side of the +/- range.

I’m not a loud listener by any means so I think I’m good but still would be interested in getting an absolute number for what I listen at.

They are (supposedly) calibrated out of the box. There is a sensitivity switch I never touched it, btw. Hopefully I haven’t. :see_no_evil:

I’m sure if one wants to get serious about it, there are products out there with a calibration certificate and the possibility to commit for follow-up calibrations down the road.

On a separate note on the cheap ones, I feel they have a poor sampling size. E.g.: you hear a hard note of a song and it takes a while (latency) to display in the meter. But I’m sure this somehow it’s embedded in the price. :stuck_out_tongue:

A rough estimate is enough for me. YMMV. :wink:

A question for me though would be: what hurts ears more, the average SPL or the peaks :question: :question:

I would dare to say average dependent upon the frequency and magnitude of the peaks; however that would pull the average higher.

I wonder if there is data on the thresholds we can tolerate vis a vis hearing loss regarding high dB peaks?

I did the exact same thing. After measuring I’m pretty sure what go me was combo of things mentioned here to avoid. I installed a new pair of 5998 power tubes and sat down with a a nice glass of whiskey to enjoy them. Volume nob was mostly at 10 with a occasional drift up to close to noon on the Euforia. Measuring that now 10 is around 80 - 90db and noon is closer to 100. it was that one listening session that did it for me as it was as few hours. Being newer to high end headphones the one thing I’m still getting used to is the complete lack of distortion at higher volumes. It’s much harder (for me anyway) to discern I’m listening too loudly without that. The Empyrean especially seems to be able to take a crazy amount of power without distorting.

I was also used to my A90 with three gain switches, the Euforia just has the nob and small turns there boost the volume very rapidly.

My ears are already getting better and I’m confident I’ve not done permeant damage. Again I appreciate having this thread as a great place to learn.


Yes, the Empyrean can creep up on you. You can easily find yourself increasing here and there. Especially when I’m listening to Flac and it’s a well recorded album. It just comes off so clean.


Do the makers say anything about sticking your probe through cardboard? [Ugg, that’s a thing in other domains too. The photos above are…evocative…] Without knowing otherwise, I’m concerned about reflections and falsely elevated dB readings. Skin and hair seem soft and dampening versus cardboard. Some frequencies may respond differently to cardboard.

In the past I just shoved my phone mic into headphone cups to estimate dBs. This involves centering the mic in the cup, and inserting it about 1/2" or 1 cm below the edge of the pad. This method results in consistent reading across about half a dozen different iPhone dB meter apps – but the accuracy is unconfirmed.